Why the Communique and Recommendations are really groundbreaking
Well, I’ve had a night to sleep on it and to think a bit more about what’s been said and written in the past 12 or so hours. It strikes me that we are at a really dramatic point in the life of the Communion. Let me explain why:
- The Communique and Recommendations (CaR), for the first time in the Communion, establishes the clear principle that disciplinary action may be taken against any Province that supports or practices doctrines contrary to the mind of the Communion
- That “mind” of the Communion is defined in the Draft Covenant as the Lambeth Bishops meeting in Council when it says “The Lambeth Conference, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, expressing episcopal collegiality worldwide, gathers the bishops for common counsel, consultation and encouragement and serves as an instrument in guarding the faith and unity of the Communion.”
- That being so, it is clear that Lambeth 1998 1.10 is “the mind of the Communion”. This has been affirmed in the “Foundations” section of the Recommendations
- Given that, the Recommendations imply that discipline is to be expected against any province that permits it’s clergy to ignore Lambeth 1998 1.10 in it’s pastoral life and practice
- The wording though of the demands upon TEC are subtle and ingenious. They call for a ban on consenting to consecrate as a Bishop anybody in a same-sex union. The subtlelty is that the union does not necessarily have to be sexually active – the moral ruling of the Primates has not been made in this regard. It is enough that someone is in a same-sex union, regardless of the manner or content of sexual activity within that union.
- In making this ruling, the Primates have shown that it is not sexual activity per se that is the indicator of incorrect moral ordering of a priest’s life (for all those nominated to be Bishop are firstly priests). Rather, it is simply the framing of one’s life in a manner that denies the truth of husband and wife as being the correct sexual union (which for example a same-sex union does, because the existence of the union prevents either partner from being married – which is a signifier of Christ and the Church (Eph 5) at the same time) that is the disbar for consent. In other words, somebody in the UK who was in a Civil Partnership would by that very act place themselves in a position where they could not be considered for consecration as a Bishop, regardless of sexual activity.
- This then has further implications as to whether those in a Civil Partnership (Civil Union in the US) or homosexual relationship should ever be considered for ordination into the priesthood in the first instance. This should lead to a re-examination of the Church of England’s House of Bishop’s pastoral advice on Civil Partnerships.
As before, these are preliminary thoughts to get the conversation going. What say you?